Baking Diabetes-Friendly Cookies: Tips & Recipes From an Expert

updated May 2, 2019
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(Image credit: Nutrition Stripped)

Baking holiday treats for a loved one is living with diabetes or pre-diabetes can be a challenge, which is why we turned to Rachael Hartley, registered dietitian and certified diabetes educator, for a few recipes and expert tips. Instead of relying on artificial sweeteners, her favorite diabetes-friendly cookie recipes use nuts, whole grain and alternative flours, and smaller amounts of less processed sweeteners to produce cookies that will tempt not just those with diabetes, but anyone looking to avoid the usual sugar highs and lows of the holidays.

What are a few of your favorite diabetes-friendly cookie recipes?

  • Pistachio Crusted Chocolate Chip Cranberry Cookies from Nutrition Stripped: Speckled with red and green, these cookies are perfect for Christmas.
  • Peanut Butter Avocado Cookies from Lean Green Bean: These cookies are packed with healthy fats from peanut butter and an unlikely ingredient: avocado!
  • Hazelnut, Orange and Honey Biscotti from The New York Times: Biscotti are generally healthier than most other cookies, with little to no butter and small amounts of sugar. This recipe uses whole wheat flour and honey for sweetness.
  • Chocolate Sandwich Cookies from Gourmande in the Kitchen: These chocolatey delights are perfect for dipping in milk. Santa will appreciate you looking out for his health.
(Image credit: Gourmande in the Kitchen)

Chocolate Sandwich Cookies from Gourmande in the Kitchen

What are your thoughts on using artificial sweeteners when baking cookies for eaters with diabetes and pre-diabetes?

I don’t recommend the use of artificial sweeteners, which seem to cause weight gain and affect blood sugar levels. Unfortunately, the one noncaloric sweetener I would recommend, stevia extract, is difficult to use in baking. A better strategy is to use a small amount of a more natural sweetener, like honey or molasses, which will give a richer flavor and slightly less of a glycemic effect.

What is your best piece of advice for baking diabetes-friendly cookies?

Experiment with flours other than white, all-purpose flour, which affects blood glucose in a similar way to table sugar. I’ve found whole grain, bean and nut flours usually improve the flavor and texture of cookies. Whole wheat, white whole wheat and spelt flour are the easiest substitutes to use, since they have little effect on the end product. My personal favorite whole grain flour for cookies is rye flour, which lends a unique, just-can’t-put-my-finger-on-it flavor. Nut flours like almond and hazelnut flour have little effect on blood sugar levels and enhance the crumb of most cookies. Even neutral flavored bean flour, such as garbanzo bean, can be substituted for about 25% of the flour called for in a recipe.

Thank you, Rachael!

(Image credit: Rachael Hartley)

More from Rachael Hartley:

→ Check out her Diabetes-Friendly 5-Day Meal Plan
→ Read her blog: An Avocado a Day